Hamilton says 'it feels like we're fighting uphill' as he lashes out at 'ridiculous' penalties
Lewis Hamilton came into the Russian Grand Prix seeking a record-tying 91st Grand Prix win. He left with his championship lead reduced and fuming at the two “ridiculous” five-second penalties he was given for breaching the practice starts rule pre-race...
The Mercedes driver did two practice starts ahead of the race, including one at the very end of the pit lane exit, which broke article 19 of the pre-event notes which FIA F1 Race Director Michael Masi sends out.
“Practice starts may only be carried out on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights and, for the avoidance of doubt, this includes any time the pit exit is open for the race,” said the note.
“For reasons of safety and sporting equity, cars may not stop in the fast lane at any time the pit exit is open without a justifiable reason (a practice start is not considered a justifiable reason).”
Hamilton was assured by his engineer Pete Bonnington that it was acceptable to complete his practice start at the exit, but moments into the race - while running in first - he was handed the two five-second penalties. He served both during his one and only pit stop, ultimately recovering to third place as team mate Valtteri Bottas won from Max Verstappen.
“I need to go back and see what the rules are, what exactly I did wrong,” said Hamilton. “I’m pretty sure no one has ever got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before.
“I didn’t put anyone in danger, I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned over it. But it is what it is.”
When asked if the penalties - for which he initially also recieved two penalty points for, moving him dangerously close to a one-race ban - was excessive, he replied: “Of course it is, and it is to be expected. They are trying to stop me.
Hamilton was the asked to clarify that last comment during the written media press conference.
“I don’t necessarily think that it is for me - I think whenever a team is at the front obviously they’re under a lot of scrutiny,” he said. “Everything we have on our car is being checked, triple checked and triple checked, they’re changing rules such as the engine regulation, lots and lots of things to get in the way and make the race exciting I assume.
“I don’t know the rules in terms of if what happened today was anything to do with it. Naturally that’s how it feels and naturally it feels we’re fighting uphill, but it’s okay, it's not like I haven’t faced adversity before. So we’ll just keep our heads down and keep fighting, keep trying to do a better job, be cleaner, squeaky clean as I said before.”
Thankfully for Hamilton, the two penalty points he was handed for the two misdemeanours were removed from his Super Licence late on Sunday evening, meaning he remains on eight points for the 12-month period. 12 points in any given 12-month span leads to an automatic one-race ban.